From one revolutionary to another: Vladimir Lenin as remembered by Habib Jalib
The figure of Vladimir Lenin exercises a talismanic hold on revolutionaries everywhere, across time and space. The year 2017 was celebrated as the centennial of the Bolshevik Revolution, leading to the establishment of the first socialist state presided over by Lenin and marking an important moment in history.
Likewise, Urdu literature is also rich in writings about the Bolshevik Revolution. However, writings on Lenin, especially poems, are few and far between.
Perhaps the most celebrated poem on the founder of the Russian revolutionary state was Allama Muhammad Iqbal’s Lenin, Khuda ke Huzoor Mein (Lenin in God’s presence) written soon after the revolution took place in Russia. Russian poet Vladimir Mayakovsky’s Conversation with Comrade Lenin, written in 1929, is also another notable attempt at a fictional dialogue with the great revolutionary leader.
Readers may be surprised to know that despite a long progressive tradition in Urdu literature inspired by the events of 1917, not much poetry exists with Lenin as the subject. Thus, on the occasion of Lenin’s 149th birth anniversary today, I am offering a rare and original English translation of revolutionary Pakistani resistance poet Habib Jalib’s eulogy to Lenin, titled Lenin – Jawab iska paida kare kainaat, part of Jalib’s 1975 poetry collection, Ehd-e-Sazaa (The Age of Punishment).
He left giving a ray of light in the dark nights
He left giving a youthful exuberance to (our) thoughts
He left giving the art of truthful living
He left us with the passion for life
The flowers keep blooming on every branch
He left imbuing the garden with spring
Lest anyone die at hunger’s hands
He gave clothes to every body
No one can loot anybody
He left the workers with a nation
How should I narrate Lenin’s greatness?
How can my word possess such power?
How can my thought ever reach him?
My verse is the earth, and he the heavens
He freed us from every injustice
The entire world eulogises him
He does not lead one country alone
His followers are indeed in the depth of the sky
His lamp will forever remain alight
A thousand storms of reaction, come as they might
He defeated the czar’s sons
The night trembles with his reflections
He gave imagination to the writers
His every word became poetry
I am alone in life no longer
He remains with me at every step
The calamities which he negotiated with such grace
Those same I continue to face
Both of us face the same enemies in the fight
I too confront a similar night
My pace will not cease
The same destinations, the same paths
I will remove every trace of the rich
However they punish me now, I don’t care
I am a fellow traveller of my sun
Why then would the darkness not make way for me?
It will always be my wish, every breath
That this hellish world become the pride of heaven!
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